A high-ranking Senate Democrat is pushing for more answers on why doctors and patient advocates with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry came to serve on a panel that advises the federal government on pain issues.
Sen. Ron Wyden says he is “even more concerned” about these apparent conflicts of interest after receiving a response from the National Institutes of Health, which vetted and selected the panel members. In a letter sent Thursday to the Obama administration’s top health official, Wyden requests a series of documents related to the pain panel, including financial disclosure forms filled out by its members.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that nearly half of the non-federal members on the panel had apparent ties to pharmaceutical companies or advocacy groups that receive funding from drugmakers. The panel includes federal officials and outside doctors and patient representatives. [Read "Federal Pain Panel That Bashed Anti-Oxycontin Over Rx Plan, Rife with Links to #pharma"; http://sco.lt/4i76mn ]
Two panelists work for the Center for Practical Bioethics, a Missouri non-profit which receives funding from drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which donated $100,000 to the organization in 2013. One panelist holds a chair at the center created by a $1.5 million donation from Purdue. The other has received more than $8,660 in speaking fees, meals, travel accommodations and other payments from pain drugmakers, including Purdue, according to federal records.
In an April response to Wyden, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins explained that “all members fully disclosed” their earned income from pharmaceutical manufacturers, as required. He also explained that NIH took great care to make sure the panel “is balanced in terms of the points of view and the functions performed.”
But Wyden’s letter points out that the two members of the panel who worked for the Center for Practical Bioethics did not recuse themselves from discussion of the CDC guidelines, which could hurt painkiller sales for drugmakers.